MT. PLEASANT -- The Panthers and Demons went at it Tuesday at Mt. Pleasant High School. The two Southeast Conference rivals went toe-to-toe for five sets, and it was Washington that walked away victorious, 3-2, taking the match 16-25, 25-12, 28-26, 23-25, 15-8.
Mt. Pleasant won the first set, pulling away midway through the set to do so. The two teams were tied at 9-9, but the Panthers went on a 16-7 run to take the game, led by a couple of kills by Maggie Cristoforo. A 25-16 first set win had the home fans excited and Mt. Pleasant led 1-0 after one game.
Washington bounced back immediately with a dominant win in the second set. Hannah Anderson and Isabel Bailey led the way early, scoring a couple of kills apiece. A Washington ace made it 11-2 and the Demons were in full control.
The Washington hitters continued to pound the ball in the second set and held a double-digit lead for most of the game. Anni Liechty gave the Panthers a little spark with back-to-back aces late in the match, but Washington walked to an easy 25-12 win to tie up the match.
The Panthers flipped the script on Washington in the third set. The Panthers scored 12 of the first 15 points, ending with a kill by Avery Sutter that gave the Panthers a 12-3 lead.
Washington clawed back, feeding Anderson, Bailey and Phelan Hostetler throughout the set. The Demons inched back to tie the game at 18-18 and 19-19, both on kills by Hostetler.
With the game tied at 20-20, Hostetler scored an ace to put the Demons up 21-20. Hannah Hess responded with a game-tying kill for Mt. Pleasant. Two points later, the game was tied again, at 22-22, on a kill by Sadie Carrasco
Mt. Pleasant scored the next two points, the second of which was anohter ace from Liechty, but Washington rallied for the next three points to take a 25-24 lead. Carrasco tied it at 25-25. Six put the Demons up 26-25 with a kill of her own, and Cristoforo tied it at 26-26. Washington ended the set with the next two points, however, getting a winning ace from Hostetler to take the set 28-26 and go up 2-1 overall.
The Panthers took an early lead in the fourth set, partially due to a couple of aces from Carrasco. Mt. Pleasant held the lead throughout the game, but it got hairy in the final points.
Hostetler started to catch fire as the fourth set wound down, and helped the Demons cut the lead all the way down to three with a 23-20 win. Washington scored three of the next four to cut the Panther lead to 24-23, but a Demon mistake helped the Panthers escape 25-23 to force a deciding fifth set.
Washington bursted out to a 4-0 lead in the final set. Bailey started things off with a kill and an Alexa Mitchell ace made it 4-0.
“I thought we came out in the fifth set on fire getting up 4-0, which showed there determination to win,” WHS coach Lexa Mahr said.
After a Carrasco kill ended the Demon run, Liechty stepped up to serve. She scored four straight points, including two more aces, to help the Panthers take a 5-4 lead.
Washington rebounded with the next five points. Addison Six had a kill in the run and the Panthers began to falter. Mt. Pleasant cut the lead back to 9-8 on back-to-back kills from Carson Lamm and Avery Sutter, but kills by Kinsey Duwa, Six and Hostetler helped the Demons pull away with the 15-8 victory.
“The match was definitely an emotional roller coaster,” Mahr said. “Losing the fourth set was part of the emotional aspect. The girls came into the huddle and were determined to win the fifth set. They were pumping each other up, staying positive.”
After the game, Mt. Pleasant head coach David Streeter expressed disappointment in the final score, citing his team’s inconsistencies for the loss.
“Too many ups and downs,” Streeter said. “If we could run an offense, we didn’t have an issue with it. Our serve receive wasn’t up to par. It was just too up and down.”
Washington moved to 7-15 overall and will likely finish the season third in the SEC, currently sitting at 4-2. The Panthers are 2-23 overall and 0-7 in the conference, and will need to beat Keokuk in their final match of the year to tie for fourth.
“Through the highs and lows, I knew with consistency, hustle and teamwork, the girls would pull it out,” Mahr said.